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MAHAMANTRA – The Devi Mahatmya

Though the Devi Mahatmyam constitutes chapters 81-93 in the Markandeya Purana, it is not merely treated as a part of a purana. Unlike the Purana that has the status of being an auxiliary limb (upanga) of the Veda, Devi Mahatmyam has attained the status of sruti, the very status accorded to the Veda. It has an intrinsic independent status by itself. It does not derive its significance from its Puranic background. It is a full-fledged scripture by itself. On one hand it is like a synthesis of many myths from many sources, skillfully integrated into a single narrative and thus incorporates the best of the puranic approach.

Part narrative and part hymn, The Devi Mahatmyam combines the strengths of both the oral and written traditions. On the other hand, it also displays the bardic style of the vedic approach, that combines the best of preliterate and literate strengths of expression, in so far as the hymns are concerned.

The Katyayani tantra considers each verse of The Devi Mahatmyam as A Mantra. Others consider every word of The Text is A Mantra.

The whole text is treated like One Maha Mantra. Though three-fourths of the scripture deals with description of battles and their associated narratives, even these contents are considered to be mantras.

The actual number of verses in the text is only 518, not 700 as stated by some modern writers. The number 700 is thus not related to the number of verses, but indicates the total number of mantras in the Devi Mahatmyam. There are 537 sloka mantras (full slokas), 38 ardha-sloka mantras (half slokas), 66 khanda mantras (part of a sloka), 57 uvacha mantras and 2 punarukta mantras, thus totalling 700 altogether. The details of the break-up of the mantras are important for for Chandi Homa, Japa and Archana. Apart from these 700 mantras, there are other covert mantras within the text. At times mantras are encoded into the narrative. Exploring the encoded mantras is possible only through an exclusive commentary written with the aim of exploring The Devi Mahatmyam as A Great Mantramaya Text.